WA: Clark County Scraps Plan To Reconsider Pot Ban

Photo Credit: Amanda Cowan

The Clark County Council will not go forward with reconsidering its ordinance that bans marijuana businesses in unincorporated parts of the county.

After a work session in December, the council determined it would hold a hearing on the matter where the public could weigh in. But, at its regular Wednesday afternoon meeting, the council reversed course after Chair Marc Boldt said he had changed his mind about reconsidering the ban.

Previously, Boldt had been open to lifting the ban. But speaking after the meeting, Boldt said he’s met with recovery and prevention groups, school superintendents and the Salvation Army, who he said all opposed lifting the ban. He also noted that the sheriff supports the ban.

“I just thought it was sending the wrong message, so I thought I wouldn’t support it,” said Boldt.

Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Eileen Quiring had been opposed to lifting the ban or holding the hearing. With three members of the five-member council now opposed to lifting the ban, Boldt said it made no sense for the council to go forward with the hearing.

Both Vancouver and Battle Ground allow for the sale of cannabis but Clark County has prohibited recreational pot shops in the unincorporated areas. Previously, Boldt said if the county lifted the ban it might be able to better police how the drug is sold and consumed while also getting a share of revenue generated by sales. A county white paper released in December estimated that the county lost out on $468,538 for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years by having the ban in place.

Christy Stanley, who owns a recreational marijuana store just outside of Battle Ground, said she’s been unable to open because of the county’s ban.

“It’s a huge disservice to the many entrepreneurs and job-providers and taxpayers,” Stanley said of the council’s decision to not reconsider the ban. Stanley said she owns retail marijuana stores in Pierce and Kitsap counties and paid more than $600,000 in taxes to the state last year.

Both Stewart and Quiring opposed lifting the ban out of concerns regarding its potential effects on youth and public health.

“We don’t need any more dumbing down,” Quiring said after the meeting.

However, Councilors John Blom and Julie Olson said it’s worth it for the county to at least take another look at the ban. Cannabis was legalized by Washington voters in 2012. Both Blom and Olson said more data on the effects of legalization has become available since then. Neither is committed to lifting the ban but said it was disappointing to not at least have the conversation.

Stanley said the information presented at the December work session was flawed and left the council with an incomplete understanding of how the state’s recreational marijuana system works. If the council understood how regulated the system is, she said, they’d come around.